The first time I saw Nana Grizol was at Plan-It-X Fest in 2012 in Bloomington, Indiana. After a pretty trying weekend of couch crashing and awkward run-ins at a no-booze-allowed venue, I was so excited for my friends from Chattanooga to arrive in their tour van inevitably packed with coolers of beer. They did eventually, and may god bless Hamm’s and house shows, am I right? The night before, though, I was stone cold sober and bouncing around the company of people I only knew from the internet, most of whom I’d never met before. Even though a lot of my friends were really enthusiastically into Nana Grizol, I had never given them more than a passing listen. In this setting, a warehouse venue packed with sweaty folk punks in all manner of cutoff shorts, the stage was swarmed for their set. Intimidated by the strength of the crowd, I stood in the back of the room, barely making out what was going on onstage. All I could really do was listen. While Theo Hilton sang about positivity and friendship in a way that felt like he was personally chastising me for being a reclusive bummer (even though I know I am well loved, it’s hard to believe all the time) tears streamed down my cheeks that I couldn’t wipe off fast enough to pretend it wasn’t happening. I couldn’t name the songs I heard that night if I tried, or the lyrics, just the way they made me feel. I felt reminded of how much warmth and love I had available to me, and I felt inspired to take advantage of it, if not also mildly scolded. I loved it.
It’s been three years since then, and in that space of time I’ve become pretty familiar with their records. This time they played at my home bar, the one I just need to stumble through my backyard and across the street to get to. Sluggo’s North (sister Sluggo’s to the one in Pensacola) is where I spend the most of my time that is not inside my own house, which was a nice update of venue from “out of town somewhere I’ve never been where I’m not allowed to have a single alcohol.” The crowd was smaller and less intense, dense for the space but packed with people I know and love. I had some seasonal cider in my hands and my friend Angela in my ear going, “oh my god, I LOVE this!” So, ideal.
The matinee show went from starting at 6 to starting around, god, who knows, maybe 9. This was fine, in all honesty, because it gave me the flexibility to be an hour late and still have tons of time to catch up with friends. Nana Grizol is the kind of band that will draw out even the worst shut-ins, myself included, so there were a lot of people to see. By the time they went on, everyone was pleasantly buzzed and gleeful to be in good company, and already sweaty enough not to mind crowding together in front of the tiny stage. Hilton played barefoot between their impressive duo of drummers/trumpet players. The two of them traded off playing drums and brass, sometimes playing simultaneously. The band seemed so comfortable and happy onstage, drummers trading joyful looks while they concentrated on their concurrent beats, tuba player dancing and playing air guitar with his tuba between parts. The downside of being the sort of insistent person who wants to stand directly in front of the stage is that the sound is the worst there, so I couldn’t make out much of what Hilton was singing the same way I did from the back of the room in Indiana. It was a different experience. This time I already knew most of the words because I have the records, but I would have liked to have been able to be reminded live. This is mostly my own fault, drunk and dancing myself sore right in front of a monitor. It’s fine. No tears this time around. Instead of having an emotional breakdown by myself in an unfamiliar room, I was able to commune with people I love in mutual appreciation of music that was fun and meaningful. There were people to grab onto and wail, “I once had a lover, I don’t know if I’ll recover, but I know it was worth it.” And I know that was worth it.
I got a chance to tell Theo Hilton about my experience at PIX ‘12 while buying a tshirt after the Sluggo’s show, and when I went outside afterwards I was glowing from the experience so much that someone called me out. I was standing outside right outside the door, mind elsewhere, and a girl drew me back down to earth by exclaiming, “you look so happy right now!” I flushed, and the bassist of Nana Grizol who happened to be sitting behind her added, “you’re beaming!” I think I said something affirmative in response, but I don’t remember–I do know I covered my red face and blended into the crowd behind them in an attempt to disappear. I’m stuck on that word he used–beaming. Joy is so infectious, and the energy reverberating between the crowd and the band left me elated. When you’re so full of happiness that it feels like you’ve swallowed the sun and it’s escaping through all your pores, that’s how I feel after a really great show, and beaming is the best possible word for it. This was that kind of show. Here’s to many more nights of beaming.